Community calling for change to Wittmann intersection after deadly crash

Posted at 7:32 PM, May 18, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-19 17:21:01-04

A call to action from a community that is frustrated and fed-up, after they tell ABC15 - they have been working for years to get a change at Grand Avenue and Center Street in Wittmann.

But, their fight over the years has a new sense of urgency after a 12-year-old girl was killed in that intersection earlier this week.

"It's the worst feeling ever," said Robert Raya. "I hope nobody has to see their 12-year-old sister..."

His sentence could not be finished. That's because Raya rushed to the scene that Monday and saw his little sister, Sofia, laying in the road.

"It's just sad," Raya said. "It still feels unreal. It still feels like it's just a joke."

Raya said Sofia was on her way home from school, riding in a van.

She was not wearing her seat belt, when DPS said a semi-truck ran a red light and slammed into them.

No word yet on whether or not that driver will face any charges.

"She had the biggest heart; always trying to help everybody," said her sister, Maria Raya. "She was just a unique, simple little girl."

Sofia was supposed to turn 13-years-old on Sunday. Now, her party is becoming a funeral her family is forced to plan.

"There's nothing we can do about it now," Maria said, shaking her head. "We will remember her."

A family friend has set-up a GoFundMe page to help the family.

The community is demanding that something changes. Dozens have approached ABC15 in Wittmann, describing their experiences with the intersection.

The biggest complaint is that the speed drops very quickly leading up to the Center Street and Grand Avenue intersection.

"You got... 200 yards, 300 yards and the speed limit drops from 65 miles an hour to 45," explained Bridget Ewer.

Ewer explains that it takes semi-trucks much longer to stop their massive hauls when the light changes. She said she has watched many go right through it; some honking to warn drivers.

Ewer has lived in Wittmann for more than a decade. For the past three years, she said - she has sent emails and made calls to ADOT asking for a sign that gives drivers a 55 mph sign to warn them of the drop in speed.

We reached out to ADOT asking why there is not a 55 mph sign in the area. We did not get a response to that question. We will keep you updated on when we do hear back.

However, they did tell us that they plan on sending a regional engineers out to the intersection to assess it.

The Maricopa County Sheriff's Office said the highway is maintained by ADOT. They understand residents have been vocal with the State of Arizona, but modifications to the area are not in sight. 

Ewer said that her hope is that they add that 55 mph sign in or adding more deputies or troopers to force drivers to slow down.

To Ewer and dozens of residents, they want something to change.